Wed, Nov 08, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: A man to remember and emulate

The death of former minister of justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) last Sunday has come as a blow to all Taiwanese.

Chen was a politician with a reputation for honesty and fastidiousness -- and he made it clear he wanted his funeral to be conducted accordingly, despite what custom might decree. He stipulated that his funeral be a simple one, without a mourning hall, funeral ceremony, flowers or gifts. Flowers and gifts sent by the president, the premier and others have all been declined.

However, if high-ranking Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials really want to honor Chen, they should follow through on his plan to establish an anti-corruption agency under the Ministry of Justice. In this way, the DPP could lay a strong foundation for a cleaner political system for years to come.

During his term as minister of justice, Chen established the Black Gold Investigation Center, which has been in charge of investigating the recent political scandals. The Ministry of Justice's Bureau of Investigation was intentionally bypassed for the investigation into the alleged misuse of the presidential "state affairs fund" as well as Chinatrust Financial Holding's controversial investment in Mega Financial. This was because the bureau's handling of big corruption cases in the past was less than ideal. Not only were there constant leaks, but the bureau appeared to be easily influenced by political interests and information uncovered during investigations had been used in political attacks.

Chen recognized the deep-rooted problems within the bureau, including its far-reaching brief -- protecting social order and investigating major crimes, including drug abuse, smuggling and corruption, as well as investigating national security issues. It is the country's only all-encompassing investigative unit, and it has been managed through a system of personal networks and connections common to long-established bodies.

He proposed the establishment of a new organization, one specifically entrusted with attacking graft and modeled after Hong Kong's Independent Commission Against Corruption. The agency would have clearly defined responsibilities and jurisdiction.

Building a clean government and cultivating diligent and caring politicians were once core values held by the DPP. They were also principles that Chen sought to uphold throughout his political career. Integrity and self-discipline are what the DPP has to pursue now.

Both the opposition parties and the red-clad followers of former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) claim to embrace the ideas of clean governance and fighting corruption. However, these values should not be used to belittle political foes, nor should they be degraded into empty slogans.

The government should formulate a complete set of legal standards, a system for enforcing them and a supervisory body. The passage of the "sunshine laws" now before the legislature and the establishment of a Cabinet-level anti-corruption agency would be steps in the right direction.

The Cabinet's proposal for an anti-corruption agency has been boycotted in the legislature by the pan-blue camp, while the bureau has done everything it can to obstruct the bill's passage. That is why the bill, which has 70 percent public support, has remained sidelined in the legislature for so long.

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